Nevada authors publish 100-year tribute to Elko County’s Ellison Ranching Company

President of Ellison Ranching Company, Ira T. Wines, was pleased to announce the recent release of High Desert Empire: Ellison Ranching Company 1910-2020, an historical look at one of the few remaining family-owned ranching operations that once dominated the west.  Written by Great Basin College professor emeritus Dr. Cyd McMullen in collaboration Jan Petersen, well-known Elko historian, the book chronicles the founding of what is today one of the top 7 cow-calf operations and one of the top 25 landholders in the country.

Wines said McMullen and Petersen did extensive and thorough research to provide accurate facts and background that detail the development of Ellison Ranching Company from 1910, when the first ERC ranches were purchased in Humboldt County, NV to present day.  During the intervening years, he noted, the company has coped with the ever-fickle climate of the Great Basin, two World Wars, the Great Depression, labor shortages, price fluctuations for beef and lamb and federal regulation of agricultural lands.

The book was commissioned by past-president and chairman of the board, Peter K. Ellison, as a legacy project to document the story of a company that is the sole survivor of these difficult times, testament to the tenacity and wisdom and foresight of founder E.P. Ellison and the hard work of family, directors and employees, Wines said.  Today the company operates three historic ranches in the high desert of Northeastern Nevada, the Spanish Ranch, The Seventy-One and the PX.  It is known for the high quality of the cattle and sheep it produces, for its innovative practices and for honoring the traditions of the past.

“Ellison Ranching Company has built an empire on positive values – perseverance, fair dealing, pride in accomplishment – that give it a place of honor in the history of ranching and the American West,” McMullen said.  “Historians of the ranching west have often used the term ‘Empire’ to refer to very large ranching operations of the past.  In this sense, it conveys size and complexity, scope of operation, and geographical reach in a very large enterprise.  Ellison Ranching Company belongs in this category.”

McMullen and Petersen gathered data from company minutes and conducted interviews with members of the Ellison family as well as past and present employees.  Historical photographs and maps documenting much of the ranch’s rich past are highlighted by contemporary photographs from acclaimed western photographers Kurt Markus, Adam Jahiel, and John Langmore.  The completed project was printed by Book Printers of Utah under the direction of Bryan Crockett and the book design was done by Maralee Nelson of M Graphic Design.  This is Nelson’s second Ellison family project.  In 2005 she designed a detailed history of First National Bank of Layton, one of E.P. Ellison’s earlier endeavors.

Copies of the book can be purchased in Elko at the Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum, Western Folklife Center and Northeastern Nevada Museum or by contacting the Ellison Ranching Company offices at 775-753-8826.  The authors will be available for book signings during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, February 3, 2023 at 3:00 pm at the Elko Convention Center and Saturday, February 4, 2023, 10:00 am to 11:00 am, at the Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum.

Photo Credits:

Cover – Moving Cattle at the Spanish Ranch, Adam Jahiel photographer

Horses – Spanish Ranch horses, Kurt Markus photographer